Bruins Have 3 Second-Line Center Trade Targets

When looking at the Boston Bruins’ lineup, it’s pretty easy to tell that they could use another center. The offseason departure of David Krejci has left a serious hole on the second line, and the Bruins should fill it if they want to be true contenders moving forward. Although it’s still early in the season, there are some options who teams could consider trading once we inch closer to the trade deadline.

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For the record, this is not a knock on Charlie Coyle in the slightest, as he’s bouncing back nicely after a rough 2020-21 season. However, it would be beneficial for the Bruins to get an upgrade and place him back on the third line. Keep in mind, offseason acquisition Erik Haula has not been handling the role well, as shown by his three points in 17 games thus far. With that, he also was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s contest against the Vancouver Canucks.

Ultimately, if any of these potential trade targets are made available as the season continues, they should be aggressive and aim to acquire them for the top-six.

J.T. Miller

Recently, Ben Kuzma of The Province reported that the Minnesota Wild have called the Canucks about J.T. Miller (from ‘Canuck J.T. Miller’s time might be on the line amid Wild interest,’ The Province, Nov. 23, 2021). There’s no question that Vancouver is struggling immensely this season, as they sport a 7-14-2 record and are at the bottom of the Pacific Division. If the 28-year-old forward is officially made available by the Canucks because of all of this, the Bruins absolutely need to jump into the sweepstakes.

J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The first appealing factor about Miller is that he has an affordable $5.25 million cap hit, and is under contract until the completion of the 2022-23 season. Thus, he would be more than a rental and at a steal of a price for what he provides. He also has been off to an excellent start this season, as he has seven goals and 20 points in 23 games. Over the two previous campaigns, he recorded 118 points in 122 games, too. Therefore, he’s been a very consistent offensive threat and would be perfect for the 2C role.

The one important thing to keep in mind, however, is that Miller’s value is naturally higher because of the extra year he has left. A deal would likely start with, at a minimum, a top prospect or first-round pick. Yet, when seeing as how Miller’s a good leader and versatile forward who can play all three forward positions, he surely would be worth at least considering.

Tomas Hertl

Tomas Hertl is a very intriguing rental candidate. After a very solid start, the San Jose Sharks are slowly falling back to Earth a bit and sport a 11-9-1 record. Yet, the key indicator that they are struggling is that they have a 5-5-0 record in their last 10 contests. They weren’t expected to be very competitive heading into the season, either, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them eventually fall out of the playoff race.

If this does end up happening, and they are unable to sign Hertl to an extension by the trade deadline, he would surely be shopped by the Sharks. Teams cannot lose top players for absolutely nothing and that’s especially the case when they aren’t Stanley Cup contenders. Although he doesn’t come with the extra year like Miller, it would make sense to pursue him. He’s consistently been one of San Jose’s top forward for multiple seasons and would work beautifully below Patrice Bergeron in the lineup.

Related: 3 Bruins Players Off to Slow Starts

Hertl has been off to a bit of a slow start for his standards, though. In 21 games, he has eight goals and 13 points. With that, he’s notably a minus-8. Yet, when looking at his past production, it’s easy to assume that he is capable of producing more frequently from here. Keep in mind, he’s just one year removed from a 43-point campaign in 50 games. He also could work swimmingly on a line with fellow struggling forward Taylor Hall.

Joe Pavelski

Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars could be an excellent option for the Bruins’ second line, too. He’s another versatile player who is capable of playing both center and right wing. The Stars are currently sixth in the Central Division with a 10-7-2 record, yet they also are just seven points behind the first place Wild, so they aren’t in a position to sell just yet. After the summer of spending they had, it would be shocking to see them sell this early on in the season. However, if they lose a lot from here, we likely will see the veteran forward on the block. He has an expiring contract and will be able to test the open market next summer, so he would be a very appealing rental candidate.

Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars
Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Even at 37 years old, Pavelski is still doing quite well this season. In 19 games, he has scored six goals and recorded 14 points. During the 2020-21 campaign, he also had 51 points in 56 games, so we have yet to see any real regression from him. That kind of production down the middle would be extremely beneficial for the Bruins and in theory would get the second line going again.

Out of three main players discussed, there’s a good chance that he would cost the Bruins the least, too. Miller has the extra year on his contract, while Hertl is still only 28 years old and could be signed to a multi-year extension. Yet, Pavelski is in the later stages of his career, so a long-term contract extension is out of the question. Adding him, however, would still be an excellent short-term decision for the Bruins, as he is a former captain with an immense of overall experience.

Honorable Mentions

There are other options who would be great for the Bruins if they are made available, too.

If the Canucks commit to a rebuild, Bo Horvat is another player who could be shopped. In an interview on Sportsnet 650, The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal noted that teams have called Vancouver about the center’s availability. Like Miller, his contract doesn’t expire until the end of next season and he has a $5.5 million cap hit. Thus, he would be an excellent option for the Bruins, but time will tell if the Canucks actually decide that they want to part ways with their current captain. In 23 games this season, he has six goals, 12 points and a minus-4 rating.

Rickard Rakell is another intriguing name from the Ducks who could be worth exploring. The versatile forward has primarily played on the wing these last few seasons, but he does have past experience down the middle. He would be viewed as another rental, as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. In 12 games this season, he has six goals and eight points.

Also, he obviously isn’t a trade target, but perhaps the Bruins could even give prospect Jack Studnicka a shot in their lineup again. It wouldn’t hurt to get another look at the 22-year-old on the NHL roster.

Ultimately, adding another center of any kind seems like a real necessity for the Bruins right now. Whether it’s a 2C or 3C, change is needed. Although their depth scoring has been immensely shaky this season, they still have an 11-7-0 record. If they want to go on another strong playoff run during the Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand era, these few players could seriously help with that.